Jerry Barakat's Oceans at Arthur's is now open in the Subaru side of the former Riverside Acura and Subaru dealership on Little Rock's Chenal Parkway.
And our test-drive was very smooth.
The seafood restaurant recently moved from the Village at Rahling Road, where its sibling Arthur's Prime Steakhouse operates (and currently hosts Oceans' Sunday brunch for the time being) until it, too, moves into the other half of this prime real estate. Between the two restaurants, a server told us, will be a patio with a fountain.
Dining in Oceans' upgraded spacious and stylish digs, it's easy to forget the space's previous purpose, especially in the impressive front dining room, which features tall ceilings and funky light fixtures and is dominated by a long sushi bar with fish artwork behind it. In the back are several smaller segmented dining rooms that are perfectly comfortable and serviceable, with similar wood tables and chairs and half-banquettes, although they don't feel quite as special.
Compared to Oceans' major physical transformation, alterations to the large, varied menu seem minor. But some dinner additions stand out. Now on the shellfish menu are Bourbon Chipotle Oysters ($16). The starters menu features several sliders ($12-$14). There's a new kale salad ($9). Two kinds of Cataplana ($20-$28), a Portuguese seafood stew served in a pot, are available, as are several kinds of tacos ($10-$12). There is an expanded "plated" menu, with more pasta dishes (Baked Bolognese, $15, and Beef Stroganoff, $18) and steaks, including the T-Bone and New York Strip (both $39).
As the revamped and more visible Oceans is the place to be in west Little Rock right now, we'd recommend making reservations. We were glad we did on a recent Friday and even on a Wednesday, as the restaurant filled up fast.
In addition to a lengthy wine list, Oceans also has plenty of sake and imported beer. There are also specialty cocktails, such as the tropical Soggy Dollar -- Pusser's Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and cream of coconut.
But note there are no prices on the cocktail menu. It's not until you get the bill, you realize the Soggy Dollar costs more than 13 of them -- $13.50.Gallery: Oceans at Arthur's
Our favorite Oceans appetizer, perhaps our favorite dish period, was the Char-Grilled NOLA Oysters ($16) off the shellfish menu. Served with pieces of toasted bread and lemon wedges, the six buttery, garlicky oysters topped with melted cheese and a sprinkling of herbs made us feel like we were on Iberville Street in the French Quarter.
Other starters we tried fell into the fried category: The Crawfish Fritters ($14) and Zip Zap Shrimp ($11). The fritters were reminiscent of hush puppies with a shellfish essence and came with a tangy lemon, herb and garlic cream sauce for dipping. The panko-breaded shrimp, topped with chili aoili and served atop rice noodles, had spicy Asian flair; an accompaniment of cool slaw helped temper the heat.
Though it wasn't soup weather, a rich, hearty bowl of Oceans Signature Seafood Gumbo ($8) proved to be an all-weather experience, while a Cucumber Salad ($6) off the sushi menu, featuring ponzu sauce and a scoop of blue crab, had a nice cool crunch.
The savory Scampi Pasta ($19), of sauteed shrimp and scallops, penne pasta, cherry tomatoes, crushed pepper, garlic and bell peppers and a sprinkle of Parmesan, was a plentiful portion, and the penne-to-plump-shellfish ratio was satisfactory.
The Cataplana can be made for up to three people and shared. Though when my Oceans Cataplana ($28 per person), a bounty of salmon, scallops, shrimp and calamari in a spiced tomato broth served in the pot with bread, arrived, I didn't want to share.
While best known for fish -- and there were so many we didn't get to (tilapia, lemon sole, catfish, grouper, black cod, seafood risotto, red snapper, shrimp and grits, po boys, fish and chips and then all the sushi ...) -- Oceans also handles land fare adeptly.
Maybe the Country Fried Crispy Chicken ($17), a crisply breaded piece of bone-in poultry with a pepper-honey drizzle, was a touch dry, but the flavor was pleasing, as were the sides of better-than-average green beans and two plush cheese-bacon-jalapeno grit cakes.
A tender T-Bone ($39), served sliced and off the bone, was cooked to the requested medium rare. The fried Brussels sprouts were a worthy side, but the homemade chips were underwhelming. As Oceans has a dozen other side options, we'd select another next time.
Oceans boasts a full two-sided sushi menu of nigiri, traditional rolls and chef platters. And then there are Chef Alex's Special Rolls/Oceans Signature Rolls; we'd choose one of these to share during a recent lunch.
Because it was marked new and because it involved fire -- and because we were too cheap to try the similar Lobster Roll ($31) -- we ordered the Flying Kiss Roll ($15). Wrapped in aluminum foil, the artsy parcel of rice, smoked salmon, shrimp tempura, blue crab and avocado was set aflame by our server tableside. If the pyro didn't get the attention of our fellow customers, the aroma did. And the finished roll tasted as divine as it smelled and looked.
Oceans' lunch menu features nine Traditional Country Platters -- meat, like fried chicken, with salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans and a biscuit for $10. Also available are the same salads and sandwiches as dinner and some sushi assortments ($11-$16).
A Tuna Bowl ($16) of rice, ginger-marinated tuna, avocado, mango, kiwi and a few ingredients not mentioned in the menu description (cucumber, crabstick and crab salad) made for a colorful and refreshing combination.
A Crab Melt ($15), described as blue crab salad with melted jack, Parmesan and Swiss cheeses and sliced tomato, was tasty, even if it appeared to be on regular, slightly over-toasted sandwich bread, and not the jalapeno cornbread the menu specified. A side of sweet potato fries hit the spot, and with the side of heavy caramel-like sauce that accompanied it, we didn't need dessert.
But if you need a dessert, you can't go wrong with an intense, prettily presented Chocolate Pecan Brownie ($7), which we shared one evening.
As for this seafood restaurant relocated in a former Subaru dealership, we'd say it's already re-establishing a solid "Legacy."
Weekend on 09/13/2018
Oceans at Arthur’s
Address: 16100 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 4-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday
Cuisine: Seafood, sushi and a bit of everything
Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Print Headline: Oceans sails through 'test drive'